This article was written by Gary Belleville
Tim Wallach picked a pretty good day to have one of the best games of his big-league career. With his entire family in attendance at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego for a Mother’s Day matinée, Wallach went 4-for-6 with two home runs and a career-high eight runs batted in.1 It was a near-perfect homecoming for the Cal State Fullerton alumnus and Huntington Beach, California, native.
The power surge from their star third baseman was exactly what the Expos needed after they dropped the first two games of their West Coast road trip in San Diego. Their starting pitcher in the series finale, Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd (1-2, 5.86 ERA), was still trying to get his season on track. Boyd had been signed as a free agent by the Expos in December of 1989 after eight tumultuous years with the Boston Red Sox. Montreal general manager David Dombrowski was counting on him to bolster the rotation after the free-agent defections of Mark Langston, Pascual Pérez, and Bryn Smith. Dombrowski was no doubt concerned when the mercurial right-hander, who had a history of circulation problems, was forced to miss his previous scheduled start, on May 8, due to numbness in the middle finger of his pitching hand.
The Padres countered with 34-year-old Eric Show, the winningest pitcher in their history.2 Show was trying to rebound from back surgery on a bulging disc that forced him to miss the last half of the 1989 season. In addition to the back pain, a variety of personal issues had rendered him a mere shell of his former self on the mound, and the struggling right-hander entered the game with an 0-4 record and an unsightly 6.23 ERA.3
The Expos struck quickly in the top of the first inning, with both Marquis Grissom and Tim Raines reaching on one-out singles. After Andrés Galarraga struck out, Wallach took ball one before launching a three-run home run to left field to stake the Expos to an early lead.
Although he struck out the side after giving up a leadoff double to Mike Fitzgerald in the top of the second, Show ran into more trouble in the third inning, and Wallach came to the plate once again with Grissom and Raines on the basepaths. Much to the chagrin of the Padres fans in attendance, Wallach drove a 3-and-1 pitch over the left-center-field wall for his second three-run shot of the afternoon. The very next pitch from Show was lined into left field for a base hit by rookie right fielder Larry Walker. Padres manager Jack McKeon had seen enough, and Show exited the game to a chorus of boos after recording only seven outs.4 Two batters later, shortstop Spike Owen singled off Calvin Schiraldi to knock in Walker, who had stolen second base, to make the score 7-0.
In the fourth inning, Wallach plated Raines for the third time in the game with a single to shallow right field. Walker followed that up by pulling a Schiraldi offering over the right-field wall for Montreal’s third three-run homer of the game, and the Expos were up 11-0.
Montreal pushed another run across in the seventh inning when Fitzgerald scored on Boyd’s groundball off reliever Mark Grant. The Padres then brought in journeyman left-hander Pat Clements to mop up the final two innings. With two outs in the eighth, Wallach doubled to deep center field to bring home Mike Aldrete and register his eighth run batted in of the day. RBI singles by Fitzgerald and Tom Foley extended the lead to 15-0 later in the inning.
Boyd, meanwhile, showed no ill effects of his missed start, and he cruised through the first five innings on the hill, surrendering only three hits and one walk. He ran into difficulties in the sixth and eighth innings, although he kept the shutout intact both times by getting Joe Carter to hit into double plays that were started by Wallach. Boyd finished the game off in style by retiring the Padres in order in the ninth inning to preserve the victory.
It was Boyd’s seventh career shutout and his first in almost five years. After the game, Boyd revealed that he had reverted to his old routine of talking to himself while pitching. “I always have to tell myself, ‘Keep the ball down, move the ball around,’” he said. “When I can actually hear these things, I respond better.”5 The game marked the beginning of his resurgence in Montreal. Two starts later, he threw a five-hit shutout against those same Padres at Olympic Stadium. He went on to post a career-low 2.93 ERA in 190⅔ innings pitched. Boyd was more relaxed in Montreal than he was in Boston’s charged racial environment, a fact that helped him bounce back from three disappointing seasons in a row with the Red Sox. “It was the best time I ever had playing baseball,” Boyd said of his days in Montreal.6
Wallach’s eight runs batted in tied the Expos record for the most RBIs in a game, which was set by Chris Speier on September 22, 1982, and equaled by Andre Dawson on September 24, 1985.7 Wallach was the only major-league player to knock in eight (or more) runs during the entire 1990 season. To put his feat in perspective, no National Leaguer had driven in more runs in a game since Atlanta Braves pitcher Tony Cloninger hit two grand slams and collected nine RBIs against the San Francisco Giants almost 24 years earlier. “This was my best game ever,” said the 32-year-old Wallach. “Those weren’t bad pitches I hit, either. The first one was on the inner part of the plate, and the second wasn’t terrible.”8
Wallach continued to hit at a torrid pace for the remainder of May, putting up a .324 average with 9 home runs and 25 RBIs in the month. “I’ve never had a homer streak like this,” he said. “I’m seeing the ball well and meeting it well. I don’t remember as much power in my stroke.”9
Alas, 1990 was Wallach’s last great season on the baseball diamond. He made his fifth All-Star Game appearance and won his third Gold Glove Award that year, receiving both honors for the final time in his career. After subpar performances in 1991 and 1992, the popular Expo was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he spent his final four years playing for the Dodgers and Angels. Generally regarded as the best third baseman in Expos history, Wallach holds team records in several categories, including most hits (1,694), doubles (260), and, of course, RBIs (905).10
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 Michel Lajeunesse, “Les Expos Matraquent les Padres 15-0,” Le Devoir, May 14, 1990: 11.
2 As of the end of the 2018 season, Eric Show, who compiled a record of 100-87 with San Diego, remained the winningest pitcher in Padres history.
4 Bob Wolf, “Early Curtain for Show, Padres,” Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1990, articles.latimes.com/1990-05-14/sports/sp-52_1_tim-wallach, accessed January 16, 2019.
5 United Press International, “Wallach Has Week’s Work in One Day with 2 Homers, 8 RBI,” Sandusky (Ohio) Register, May 14, 1990: 8.
7 The trio of Chris Speier, Andre Dawson, and Tim Wallach still shared the Montreal Expos record for the most RBIs in a game when the team relocated to Washington after the 2004 season.
8 Wolf, “Early Curtain for Show, Padres.”
9 “N.L. East Notebook,” The Sporting News, June 4, 1990: 8.
10 Tim Wallach no longer holds the Expos/Nationals franchise record for most hits, doubles, or RBIs. However, as of the end of the 2018 season, he still held the franchise record for most games (1,767) and at-bats (6,529).